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Are you worried about the prospect of driverless cars or do you believe that autonomous vehicles will make our roads safer?

With driverless cars soon to be rolling off the factory line, we thought we’d take a look at self-driving vehicles and examine how they work and when will they arrive in the UK.

 

When will driverless cars come to the UK?

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced in January that steps are being taken to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of driverless car technology. He also confirmed the cars are close to being tested on Britain’s roads.

Trials underway in Greenwich, South London, are providing valuable data on how human drivers react to range of different driving events. Results from the trial are also expected to help shape new safety requirements and insurance products designed for autonomous driving.

It has emerged recently that the Government plans to invest £8.1 million to fund trials for driverless lorries. The plans allow up to three lorries to travel in automated convoys which will be controlled by a driver in the lead vehicle in a bid to reduce congestion and emissions.

Initially trials of the technology will take place on a test track where research will help to establish the appropriate distance between vehicles, these trials are expected to move to major roads by the end of 2018.

 

How do self-driving cars work?

  • Different brands ranging from Google to Nissan are planning to make driverless cars, and so there is bound to be some variation in the vehicles when they eventually come onto the market.
  • Self-driving cars have technology fitted that allows them to navigate and be aware of their environment without the need for a human driver.
  • Each vehicle is fitted with a GPS unit, an internal navigation system and sensors.
  • Radar sensors dotted around the car create a 3D image of their environment and monitor the position of vehicles nearby.
  • Video cameras detect traffic lights, read road signs and keep track of other vehicles, while also looking out for pedestrians and other obstacles.
  • The car’s internal map will also include the current and predicted static locations of buildings, traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Lidar sensors help to detect the edges of roads and identify lane markings by bouncing pulses of light off the car’s surroundings.
  • The majority of self-driving cars have “deliberate architecture” installed – meaning they are capable of making intelligent decisions, even working out the best route to their destination.
  • Once the decision is made the journey is dissected into commands which are fed into devices called actuators.
  • These actuators control the steering, braking and throttle.

 

What problems have driverless cars faced?

There is still some way to go before driverless cars are safe to drive on our roads.

Examples of self-driving car safety issues include:

  • Roadworks: In April 2015 Delphi sent an autonomous car 3,400 miles across the US, engineers had to take control of the car for a 50-mile stretch because of unmarked lanes and roadwork.
  • Sandbags: In February last year one of Google’s self-driving cars collided into a bus as it tried to navigate sandbags. The car had predicted the bus but anticipated it would yield
  • Weather: Changing weather can create visibility problems that reduce the range and accuracy of sensors.
  • Hacking: As cars become more hi-tech they become more vulnerable to hacking. With driverless vehicles, the extra computers, internet connectivity and sensors increase the possible vulnerabilities.

 

What do you think about the prospect of driverless cars coming to UK roads?

 

 

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